Police question reporter over confrontation with Ford
Chris Fox, cp24.com
Published Thursday, May 3, 2012 10:17PM EDT
A Toronto Star reporter says he didn't stand on cinder blocks near Mayor Rob Ford's backyard or peer over a fence to snap pictures of the mayor's home.
Daniel Dale, the Star's urban affairs reporter, made the comments to reporters Thursday afternoon after being questioned by police for close to two hours at 22 Division in Etobicoke.
Dale said he was standing on public property reporting on a story about a parcel of land the mayor was looking to purchase when he was approached by an "extremely agitated" Ford at around 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Dale's story contradicts Ford's version of events.
"I stood on nothing but grass the whole time, I didn't jump, I never peered over the fence, I never even made an attempt to look over the fence," Dale said.
Dale said he had ventured to Ford's house in an attempt to get a better feel for the land he wanted to purchase.
The land had been described by Ford as a vacant plot of land in a letter to its owner, the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, but Dale said he had spoken with an official who described it as "parkland."
"I thought it was a relevant discrepancy given that I think members of the public would react differently to someone trying to buy a vacant lot and someone trying to buy land with beautiful trees on it," he said. "I just wanted to see where this property was and what it looked like."
The land in question is a "football field" away from where Dale was spotted outside Ford's home, the mayor said.
Dale, however, said the map he received from the TRCA was "confusing."
For his part Ford has said that Dale was "harassing" his family and should "absolutely" be charged.
In recounting the incident to CP24 Thursday morning, Ford said he was helping his daughter with her homework when a neighbour knocked on his door and alerted him to a person peering onto his property and taking photos.
On Thursday that neighbour stood by his earlier account, telling CP24 he saw Dale standing on cinder blocks. The neighbour said that Ford hadn't seen Dale until he knocked on his door and told him what was happening.
Ford immediately walked out the front door towards the back of his property where he spotted the reporter on the public side of the fence. That's when Ford confronted Dale.
"You know what, this is truly unbelievable. They chase me up north, they chase my mom from house to house, they follow me around and now they are sneaking into my backyard," Ford said Thursday morning. "I'm not putting up with it."
Dale stood by his original comments that he "feared for his safety" when confronted by the mayor.
"Someone stronger than me charged forward with a raised fist and would not let me leave in a normal way, so I felt in danger," he said of Ford during the news conference. "I was trying my hardest to leave. All I wanted to do was to get out of there."
"I'm not a tough dude," he added. "I've never been in a fight."
Dale said he then threw his phone and his recorder on the ground and ran away.
"I was controlling myself," Ford said of the confrontation Thursday. "My 75-year-old neighbour said he would have grabbed a stick and hit him in his head or something. Anybody would."
In an interview with CP24's Stephen LeDrew Thursday night, Toronto Star Editor-in-Chief Michael Cooke said that he believed there was only one true version of the story.
"I believe Daniel Dale," Cooke said. "He's honest, honest, honest."
Cooke said that Dale was not standing on cinder blocks and that in fact someone had "fiddled" with the cinder blocks behind Ford's house since the incident Wednesday night, putting one on top of another.
Ford has had a long-standing feud with the Star dating back to a story published during his 2010 election campaign.
The story, originally subject to legal action by Ford, concerned an altercation the mayor had with a high school football player while a coach at Newtonbrook Secondary School in North York in 2001.
Ford has also taken issue with Star reporters showing up at his cottage during the summer and keeping tabs on his mother as part of their investigations.
But Toronto Star Spokesperson Bob Hepburn said the paper is "simply doing basic professional journalism."
"The Star is not harassing the mayor, it's not harassing his family, it's not targeting the mayor and we don't have a vendetta," he said.
In a press release issued Thursday afternoon Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union Local 87M President Paul Morse said Ford needs to learn to work with the media like a "responsible adult."
"Someone who chooses to take part in public life should not be flying off the handle like this, making violent gestures against the city's media because he is suddenly the centre of public attention," he said. "Everyone in this city is demeaned by his behaviour."
CEP Local 87M represents 3,000 media workers across Ontario, including employees of the Toronto Star.